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Roller derby is happiness

November 24, 2009

Roller derby is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Before derby, I was different. I had never won anything that wasn’t related to academics. Academic achievements might impress some people but they weren’t something I valued, despite my schooling. I was active, but not athletic. I didn’t participate in anything that involved working with other people. I’m still a lone wolf as far as anything outside of derby is concerned, but being part of the derby family is an experience I wouldn’t give up for anything.

After a lifetime of being an overachiever, I learned a lot about losing in my first year of skating. The team I was on lost more often than we won. I lost a lot of friends due to derby. It tests your friendship when you ask people to come out to your events. Only three of my friends showed up to a bout that entire season. For the final bout I issued an ultimatum to my other friends: come to this game, or we’re done. It sounds harsh, but to put it in perspective, I’d been going to their weddings, baby showers, birthdays, housewarmings, and other celebrations for years. Not once did I ever have a party or event of my own. I’m single, childless, and I don’t do much for my birthday other than have a nice meal. I’d bought presents off my friends’ registries and drove hours to go to their celebrations several times a year. In return, a $10 ticket and two hours of their time on one Sunday night really wasn’t asking much.

Nobody showed up. My grad school advisors came, which was pretty cool, but the friends I had had throughout grad school all bailed without an excuse. Thus, I freed myself from feeling obligated towards people who didn’t feel any sense of reciprocity towards me. That felt good. Really good. That was when I started to feel that I was winning my own personal battles by losing the negativity in my life.

I’ve changed from someone who works out to a real athlete. I don’t just exercise, I train. I don’t simply tolerate other people for a duration, I work with my team and try to contribute to our common goals. I have a passion, not just a hobby. It’s not something I can do alone or without a lot of hard work.

Without derby, I might have been a mess when I lost my job (although without derby, I might still have a job). It’s become a constant, calming influence in my life, even when it’s work, even when it’s not so fun. It’s something to look forward to and get better at. It’s become the anchor in my otherwise unstable life.

Roller derby is happiness. I am never happier than when I have my skates on. It’s my drug; I get my high from it, and I crave it when it’s been too long without. I love this sport, the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met through it. I can’t imagine stepping away, even though someday I will have to.

My team, the Bronx Gridlock, won the 2009 Gotham Girls Roller Derby Championship this past Saturday night. With that win comes the proof that winning isn’t everything, because I’m still not satisfied. There’s still so much more to learn and do, and I’m not near finished. I don’t even have a choice in the matter anymore; I’m not done with roller derby, but roller derby’s not done with me either.

Eddie Goldman has some thoughts on roller derby as happiness, a recap of the championship bout, and an interview with me, still giddy from our win, here. Thanks, Eddie, for the inspiration for this post.

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